What’s the future of telco retail? Ask the food delivery companies. With their new customer-first strategy that blurs the line between the digital and physical, telcos have a lot to learn from their success. Maplewave’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Will Gibson, shares his thoughts in this edition of Telco Talk.
How often do you get takeaway delivered? Here in the U.K., most people order a few times a month, if not more.
Whether it’s Just Eat or Deliveroo in the UK, or Skip the Dishes or DoorDash in Canada, I’m sure your country has its own version.
The plethora of Uber-Everything services is a very real response to changing customer expectations and demographics. Today’s youth, Generation Z, are causing commerce to evolve. They’ve never known life without technology, and their buying habits mirror the convenience of the digital world.
They are looking for convenience. They are looking for speed. And they want, what they want, when they want it.
Made fancy dinner plans but now you don’t want to venture out in the rain? No problem, just use your delivery app to get that same steak delivered!
In a time-strapped world where instant gratification is a necessity, food delivery has exploded beyond fast food counters to gourmet restaurants, and now…physical grocery stores?
In October, 2022, Deliveroo opened – gasp – a physical grocery store on New Oxford Street in London. For years we’ve heard about the death of physical retail stores, and now a digital company is investing in bricks and mortar! What is happening?
Deliveroo recognized that they had an opportunity in front of them. 64% of Londoners buy groceries at least every few days vs. a once-a-week shopping trip. This project is the answer to the question, “What if we could marry the digital delivery experience with the grocery industry?”.
Deliveroo’s physical store is designed to augment their digital first strategy, giving their loyal customers a true quality of choice that only a physical store can provide. It’s part retail store – it stocks 1,750 items from Morrisons. Instead of browsing the aisles, customers place their order using an app or an in-store kiosk, and store staff will have it picked and packed in literally 2-3 minutes. Gamechanger.
The store also “gives back” – a key value proposition for environmentally savvy Gen Z’ers, through its partnership with “Too Good to Go” – a service offering near sell-by-date food at a vastly reduced price. Local residents and businesses can also use the space as a collection point for their myriad of online purchases, negating the need to waste valuable time waiting at home for the courier to arrive, only for them to invariably text you to say they will be late anyways!
There are those magic words again. Convenience. Speed. Choice. Suddenly, investing in physical retail is not such a departure after all – with a digital-first ethos, it’s simply the next evolution.
So, what lessons can the telco industry take from this example? Telcos and food delivery companies started at the opposite end of the spectrum; one, from a low-cost, digital base – and the other with a 30+-year history of in-person retail.
Telcos need a “Digital Pivot”. This is a real mantra that lots of retail businesses have not worked out yet, but it’s about changing strategy. Fully. Whole-heartedly. Completely. It means prioritizing digital first and bringing that experience into physical channels.
I am sorry to say this, but telcos have been playing at “digital” for the past 5-10 years. They’ve dipped their toes into the cold sea of omnichannel and decided that they don’t really like it. It’s too cold and expensive, and they will invest just “what they have to” in order to survive in this space. People still want mobile phones and cable TV and service subscriptions, so it’s been easy to rely on decades’ old retail strategies to get by.
So, what does a true “Digital Pivot” look like for telcos?
The first big change is bringing self-service to the forefront. By providing customers with fully realized self-care apps, kiosks, and collection lockers, they can make transactions and manage their services without visiting a physical store. This is the backbone that companies like Deliveroo are working from and is the type of experience that Generation Z expects (learn more about how these youngsters will change retail in How to Prepare your Telco Business for Generation Z and Beyond).
Whether they use a self-care app or a kiosk, customers should be able to do the following without assistance:
Telco e-commerce is notoriously difficult to get right, which means customers can rarely complete online transactions without outside intervention (my colleague wrote a great article on this recently, check out The Ugly Truth: 8 Reasons Why eCommerce Is So Difficult For Telcos).
Your e-commerce solution should let customers:
3. Go All In On Omnichannel
By now, you’ve probably noticed that the first two requirements have an omnichannel element. An omnichannel approach is the only way to give customers that “want what I want, when I want it” experience. By deploying a single platform that links every channel together, customers can seamlessly move between channels, blending the physical and digital into a “one size fits me” experience.
Depending on where transactions are started, completed, and collected, we’ve calculated 184 different possible omnichannel journeys that telcos could be fulfilling (you can read more about this in our whitepaper, How To Bring 184 Telco Omnichannel Journeys Within Reach).
Your omnichannel strategy should:
A digital pivot doesn’t mean leaving retail stores behind – as we’ve seen, even digital-first businesses are seeing the value that this channel brings. But that doesn’t mean it’s “business as usual” for the retail store. To be successful, you must merge the digital experience with the physical. This is a radical transformation, but a necessary one (get the full story in my Telco Talk video, The Re-Imagined Telco Store).
Your retail stores should:
The last piece of the puzzle is your channel strategy. The Digital Pivot will require you to heavily invest in more digital channels and solutions. It also means you will have to divest from others. It’s about finding a new balance that makes sense financially, as well as enabling that dream experience for your customers.
Look at your channel strategy and:
It’s always helpful to get an outside perspective. Are you struggling to complete your Digital Transformation in your sales channels? Unsure of how to right-size your retail, or having adoption issues with your digital channels? I’ve put together a short quiz that will evaluate your channel strategy and give you concrete actions to move forward. It takes 3 minutes to complete and can be found here.
Retail is changing – dramatically. Telcos, this is your do-or-die moment. Otherwise, watch as MVNOs (our industry’s Deliveroo) take over. Their digital-first mindset makes them easier to deal with, they’re more flexible, and they appeal to the tech-loving Generation Z (and upcoming Alphas).
Change isn’t just inevitable – it’s both necessary, and good. So, when you order your next takeaway, remember - you’re not just getting a tasty meal, you’re witnessing the future of customer experience in action.
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